With National Park Week coming up, it’s essential to have all your tools ready. One of the most useful devices you can have outdoors is the invaluable smartphone. I’ve heard the opposition from the purists who say that we should abhor technology in the wild, but if used responsibly it can be an extremely valuable asset. From finding park events, to trail guides, climbing spots, and reserving campgrounds, apps have become as essential a tool as a pocketknife. Here are five great apps that you can use outdoors this season:
1. The Mountain Project (iPhone/Android, free to download, $4.99/yr subscription for expanded areas)
Trying to find some great local routes? Want to track your climbs and read reviews? The Mountain Project app has collected and categorized over 75,000 climbing routes, all graded and organized by difficulty. The great part about this app is that it can be used offline as well, so when you’re just hanging out at the crag far away from civilization, you can still find, map, and tag the nearest sport or bouldering sites. You can bookmark your favorite climbs and then find others similar in style and difficulty. The app also has a great photo sharing service so that you can upload photos of that technical 5.11 overhang you just flashed.
2. The North Face Trailhead (iPhone/Android, free)
The North Face Trailhead app does for hikers what the Mountain Project does for climbers. Entering your zip code finds you all the local trails, divided by difficulty and technicality. It locates all the nearest ranger stations and local campgrounds. The trails are all user submitted so it’s an app that was built by hikers for hikers. Beyond hiking, it can also find ski trails and slopes, fishing grounds, geocaching locations, and even some local climbs. You can update your progress and location in real time, adding pictures, elevation changes, and warnings, such as weather, and if part of the trail suddenly becomes blocked off.
3. Pocket Ranger (iPhone/Android, free, available in DE, GA, KY, LA, MO, NJ, NC, PA, RI, SD, VA, and WY)
Developed specifically with National and State parks in mind, Pocket Ranger is a great tool to stay up to date with the latest events, advisories, and weather in the national parks. You can find a park easily by activity, filtering out the best spots for camping, hiking, or fishing. Fisherman can view regulations for each area and find out how to obtain their permits. Using GPS, the app logs each trailhead, giving crucial information about its safety and condition, and even allows the user to make reservations directly from their phone. With it’s ever expanding territory into more and more parks, Pocket Ranger is useful to everyone, no matter the activity.
4. Kayak Mobile (iPhone/Android, free)
You just heard that there’s great snow conditions out West, the crag is empty for the first time this season, or you need a quick escape to the mountains. The Kayak mobile app is an awesome tool for organizing the cheapest flights on the go, organizing hotels, and finding rental cars. The app culls results from all the major travel sites and automatically locates the least expensive. Hotels can be reserved on the spot, even for multiple rooms, and it can even tell you what’s good to see around the area. You can track flights and stay informed about your connection or easily change your reservation if you accidently miss it. A great tool for the outdoorsmen on the go.
5. Pano (iPhone/Android, $1.99)
After a long and exhausting hike you’ve finally taken the summit and are staring off into the spectacular view from up top. Pano takes great panoramic 360 degree photos in 6800 x 800 resolution. The app snaps 16 photos together to create one seamless line, enhanced by automatic color correction and correct alignment. Were you so overwhelmed by the view that you dropped your phone? Pano can save the picture and you can pick up from the point that you left off. There’s no need to edit the pictures on the computer, the app takes the photo and then does all the hard work for you.
Bonus: Naturescape: Relax, Meditate, Escape, Sleep (iPhone/Android, free)
So you weren’t able to get the weekend off, or you just came back from a long trip and you’re already nostalgic for the wild. Naturescape transports you back with high quality 3D ambient sounds that recreate any scene imaginable from a midnight fire to a hidden stream. The app comes with six free tracks but you can purchase more from the app. Set a sleep timer and enjoy the seamless looping, while the high quality audio brings out the best in your headphones. It’s a great way to literally dream of going outside again.
Soundoff: What are your favorite outdoor apps?